Introducing Indigenous Soul-Blues Musician Yirgjhilya

Published in Music  
Yirgjhilya's debut single is titled 'Baganar' Yirgjhilya's debut single is titled 'Baganar'

From South Australia to Far North Queensland and now Melbourne brings Yirgjhilya, a talented singer who finds her inspiration, confidence and strength within her community and family.

Daughter of Coloured Stone's Bunna Lawrie, Yirgjhilya grew up in a musical family allowing her to develop her creativity and musical expression from a very young age.

Last week, Yirgjhilya released her debut single 'Baganar'. Written in Mirning, an Aboriginal language from the Far West Coast of South Australia, 'Baganar' translates to 'call out' and 'rise up;'.

There are approximately less than six fluent speakers of Mirning left and as a new wave of Indigenous artists emerge, they're now returning to their mother tongue.

Yirgjhilya honours her family ties and culture through her own self-expression bringing you a powerful and soul-tingling call for unity among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Who is Yirgjhilya? I sound like. . . 60,000 years plus ancestral energy and gratitude after an uphill battle of change and transformation.

My first gig was... A battle of the bands at a neighbouring school when I was just nine years old.

Our school's music teacher taught a group of five girls (including my older cousin and I) to play instruments and play songs like 'Sweet Home Alabama' and 'Smoke On The Water', but we gravitated more towards hits like Avril Lavigne's 'Sk8er Boi' and any of Pink's songs in her OG days.

We lost the battle of the bands to a girl group doing My Chemical Romance covers. Then our teacher got us kid's meals from Hungry Jacks afterwards and let us sit in the party room.

How did you settle on your artist name? Yirgjhilya is my real, legal, Christian, Aboriginal, God given name.

In Mirning language from the Far West Coast of South Australia, it translates to the Morning and Evening Star or Venus if you will, or bright fire light. Most Mirning words can have different meanings but I settle with Morning Star.

When I was first born, we lived on the Koonibba Mission in South Australia and at that time my family hadn't settled on a name for me just yet. They were going to name me after my maternal great-grandmother who had an iconic name too. But one night, my Father was in our back yard holding a newly born me and saw a shooting star and decided that was a sign I should be named Yirgjhilya, true story yo.

In the studio I usually... Crack jokes with Jamie, my main band guy, and generally catch up on the goss because we usually haven't seen each other for a while between gigs and recording.

Between brainstorming ideas and catching up on admin, I like practising my scales and stretching as part of my warm-up because I should be using what I learnt in music school; it gives my pronunciation and technique a richer sound.

If I could tour with anyone... It would always be Dad and Coloured Stone. Our tours are always full of ups and downs and always have so many stories to tell afterwards.

The joys of being a part of a well-known Aboriginal band is that when we tour, the communities' people are so loving and welcoming to us, we almost never have to pay for accommodation because people of that community take us in like family.

My Father has always toured the communities of Australia; that's where he started and we still do it. Seeing and hearing stories of people who saw Coloured Stone play back in the '80s in their communities and still have photos, posters or t-shirts and have now come to see us again, some even travelling far from another community to meet us, it's heart-warming and gives meaning to our gift of music to know that it's been a part of people’s lives in such a significant way.

Social media is... A doorway to connection.

My favourite app at the moment is… YouTube. I watch daily readings for my zodiac sign – Aqua represent! Nobody drag me for that later thanks!

To date my most embarrassing moment was the time... Ugh drag me right... A few years ago, I was asked to sing the National Anthem at my university's graduation ceremony.

I said yes straight away because ya girl used to sing in choirs and even sang the anthem for Julia Gillard back in the day. Only catch was I had to sing the second verse as well. I know. . . I didn't realise there was a second verse either, and my primary school made us sing the anthem every week.

I dressed myself up in a cute black and white suit with a little black tie because your outfit should speak success, right? I arrive and have some time before I get up, so I start writing the whole song repeatedly over and over to memorise it. It comes to my time and I get on stage; my head of department looks proud as hell and I start singing. Sounds good. I sing the first verse perfectly.

I get to the second and I can't remember it so I repeat the first verse over again. At that moment, I hear a gasp in unison from the crowd; I look up and there's multiple mouths and eyes wide open looking at me. I remember getting many hugs after from the HOD and staff saying I did great but yeah, they didn't ask me to sing again.

Life on the road can be... Some of the greatest moments you can ever have in life and some of the loneliest.

It's been a while since I've done a proper tour, but I always found being in such beautiful places and around such amazing people means nothing if you don't love it or love and appreciate the people around you.

Maybe because I started touring at a young age, I didn't have much context for what I was doing besides performing but now that I'm older and more experienced, it's a blessing and a privilege to tour to different places and meet different people and share with them your music. It's like seeing different perspectives of people's lives and communities, their struggles, their views and hoping we find connection through music.

If you'll have me on your bill, all I ask is that my rider contains... Just a place to put my belongings, some water and a mirror to do last checks of my make-up away from the audience's eyes.

I've gotten ready in too many dark and cold toilets, and kept my belongings on stage with me too many times. Depending on where we are as well, some things are just common sense.

Like if it's summer and we're in a hot tent, a fan and water would be perfect. Health and safety is important to me and once you've done gigs and toured with old guys like my Dad and Uncles, you look for seemingly small things like chairs and water just to make their stay more comfortable.

The most scary scenario I've found myself in, was... Probably being out in the middle of nowhere, no money, don't know where you're gonna lay your head for the night, and your only friend is the moon and stars.

You realise there's more away from the big city; you can feel you're under the LORE of that land you're on. I never understood things like that even though I'd grown up Aboriginal with both sides of my family very strong in our cultures.

You don't understand all the things your elders told you growing up were real until you experienced it for yourself, and you come to understand things like 'calling the police' won't help you.

You're at the mercy of Mother Nature and the spirits of that land. That really puts things into perspective and it's scary to talk about, but as an Aboriginal we live in two worlds and when we die, we will have to answer to our ancestors and creator. So ya know, do the right thing always.

What celebrity/ famous person would you love to be spokesperson of the band... Hmmmm, probably the Icelandic anti-capitalist, BDSM inspired, award-winning group Hatari'. They're very charismatic and honest people. I think they would keep my best interest in mind always and keep any tokenistic nonsense away :P

Three people you'd like to invite around for a dinner party... Hhhmm, that's a hard one. I generally only have my loved ones around for dinner as they're less judgemental of my cooking.

But let's just say if I could, I would have Marilyn Manson, my Mum, and Jesus Christ over for dinner. I think it would be a great 'red table talk' moment with my religious Mum discussing my relentless teenage years of being obsessed with Marilyn Manson, but still having faith in God and being able to discuss it with the source (Jesus, God, Creator). I think we'd all leave the dinner table with all our beliefs in tatters, and me probably smiling like '14 year old me was right and everyone was just a H8ter' XD.

If we were coming over to your place, what would you cook us? I grew up eating mostly traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dishes.

Our families would have 'Macan's' which basically means feast. But I can cook Bully Beef and Rice, and Chicken Jensee. My cooking skills haven't really left the kitchen of my childhood home in Cairns, so if you want that then come over or we could go to Costco and get a hot dog.

No matter the expense, send me a case of... Fake mink lashes from Wish because they disappear like hotcakes in my house. A case would only be like $2, so no sweat.

The last time I saw the inside of a gym was... Almost two years ago I think… but I sometimes drive past and have a peep in the window if that still counts? I prefer a slow walk around the block these days and I never shy away from putting on my favourite dance music and dancing around the house; it's actually one of my favourite activities.

What's the one chore you dislike the most? Washing the dishes for sure. I have to really be in a 'I can do this' mood to do the dishes, so I generally only use my dishwasher once a week.

Do you have any phobias... please explain? Deep ocean water. The deeper the ocean and the murkier it is, no thanks. I think because I grew up around crocodiles and getting stung at a young age by the world's deadliest jelly fish, I just can't fathom not being able to see what's beneath me.

But on the contrary, both my Father and Mother's people are coastal people, so they're amazing, confident swimmers. Even in winter, I can never be too far from freshwater or saltwater; the colder the water the better. But I'll only swim in it if the water is running and I can see to the bottom. I just think I'd feel better making eye contact with the shark or crocodile before it eats me.

Would you ever partake in a reality show? I would love to be a part of the Aboriginal version of 'Keeping Up With The Kardashians'. You could call it 'Keeping Up With The Mob' – kind've like 'Family Rules' (that was amazing, I hope it comes back).

It's important to show Australia a normal Aboriginal family just living their lives. As simple as it may seem, we get misrepresented in the media too often and have our voices muted to make way for meaningless topics by non-indigenous people.

It would be nice if I could show the world how I live my life in two worlds: a heavy past and a heart full of dreams wearing some of the hottest styles hand-made by my Nana. Copywriting this idea right now by the way.

If you could prank any of your friends, who's your target, and how are you bringing them down? Probably my Mum; she's kind've my friend. She's the most genuine person you'd ever meet so much so, she'd never doubt anything you say.

I'm not much of a prankster, but I once pranked her by downloading an app that superimposed pictures of ghosts and other scary stuff onto photos. I took photos of her just at the TV and around the house doing normal stuff.

She believed the pictures were real and I forgot about it after a while until she asked me to take a photo of her to see if there were still ghosts around. At that point, I felt bad and had to confess that it was an app. She wasn't too impressed, but I still have the photos and it's a funny story to tell now.



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